Which mbuna are best to start with?


Editor's Picks
Features Post
Rathbun’s tetra in the wild
13 September 2021
Fishkeeping News Post
Report: 2021 BKKS National Koi Show results
13 September 2021
Features Post
The World's forgotten fishes
16 August 2021
Features Post
Black phantoms in the wild!
02 August 2021
Features Post
Understanding territories
06 July 2021
Jeremy Gay advises on which mbuna are best to start off with.

Q: Please can you give me some suggestions on the best species of mbuna to keep in a tank measuring approximately 140x40x40cm, as I know some mixes get on better than others. My missus likes the yellow-coloured species, so I’d like to keep her happy and include a few of those. So what would you advise I put with them and how many of each? How do I introduce them — in groups or all at once?


A: Jeremy advises: Yellow Labidochromis are some of the best mbuna to start off with as they are bright, reasonably well behaved and don’t get too large. I’d also try Pseudotropheus acei which are very peaceful by mbuna standards, and Melanochromis cyaneorhabdos, which have dark blue males and females to contrast with the Yellow labs, but stay small and aren’t too aggressive despite those striking markings. 

And, for another colour again, I would add some Red zebras, Metriclima estherae. 

Fishless cycle this tank, then add them all at once as juveniles, with a ratio of one male to at least two females. You need to crowd mbuna, so even a tank of that size will hold 30 fish-long term. Just ensure filtration and aeration are up to scratch. Avoid Melanochromis auratus and Metriaclima lombardoi for the first six months as they do become aggressive and are likely to dominate the tank early on. But other Labidochromis would be a good choice, along with some Pseudotropheus saulosi, OB Labeotropheus trewavasae and maybe a specimen male mbuna like a single Cynotilapia afra or Pseudotropheus elongatus.